From Left to Right: City of Coral Gables Commissioner Frank Quesada; LauraRusso, Laura A. Russo, Esq.; Chair of the Board Darla Thompson, Cherry, Bekeart & Holland, LLP; Anna De La Rosa and Abe Ng, Sushi Maki/Pao Town.

It was an honor for our Chamber to partner with 55 local businesses in Coral Gables to celebrate Small Business Saturday. And revel, we did! Maybe it was the backlash from Black Friday or the continuing encroachment of big box retailers deeper into the Thanksgiving holiday that helped our businesses thrive.

Maybe it was a well-orchestrated campaign by our local Chamber that marshaled energy and collective resources into one weekend of pre-holiday sales. Or maybe, it was the outstanding effort of our amazing partner and Small Business Saturday architects, American Express, who hit it out of the park with smart advertising and a hometown-centered national movement.

No matter the reasons behind the success, the results of Small Business Saturday were palpable and the coffers full.

With nearly 65% of new jobs being created and 44% of payroll taxes paid by independently owned businesses, it is easy to understand the positive energy that a program like Small Business Saturday might create. Mere weeks after a presidential campaign focused on main street, the Big MO-mentum generated by Small Business Saturday was huge, timely and a reminder to all who love to shop that shopping small is good for your heart and soul!

Our Chamber organized a day of events that became a Best Practice for other Chambers of Commerce across the US. For the second year, AMEX singled out the Coral Gables Chamber for a grant to help promote Small Business Saturday, including door mats, buttons and window clings for participating businesses. All of these items lacked one curious thing…any mention of AMEX – at all!

This selfless act reminds all of us in the business of doing business that sometimes it is about making the right decision versus drawing attention to yourself. Throw in some AMEX gift cards and $25 statement credits for those who pre-registered your card and you have millions of dollars in investment to help promote our small businesses the right way. Message heard!

Our Chamber’s goal is to continue to grow this program each year in the Gables and in Miami-Dade…not only via the number of businesses who participate and increased sales, but by changing the conversation.

Instead of watching people run over one another as the doors open to Toys R Us or Best Buy, why don’t we coalesce around the amazing work our small business owners do and the important role they play in growing our economy? We have to recognize that it is not always about what is less expensive or more convenient — substance is a good thing, too.

Small businesses need us to shop local to help them grow. Can you imagine a place like Books & Books without 30 years of customer loyalty and enduring support? There would be no iconic store, no author events and no world-renowned Miami Book Fair. What if Rene Ruiz never opened his couture store and brought his gorgeous designs to the Gables and South Florida? How would we survive if there was no place like Tarpon Bend or Pao Town to gather with friends for good food and cold drinks or The Giving Tree to find that perfect gift or even Avant-Garde Salon to make us look and feel gorgeous?

I cannot imagine a world -– or even Coral Gables -– without these great small businesses. They are part of our culture and the men and women who own these shops are our neighbors, our friends, our fellow Miamians, our heroes. They do the heavy lifting every single day so that our load is lighter and brighter.

Small Business Saturday is the one day a year we are reminded of this fact and that, my friends, is our good fortune. So, in the holiday spirit, please shop small, spend locally and remember how important small businesses are to our community.

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